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Qobuz - C 9638 Elegies: Seven Sighs or Passionate Plaints for Sorrowful Souls


Running an early music label today: some considerations.

It was at the beginning of 2018 that I first approached Evelyn Tubb and Anthony Rooley about the possibility of releasing a collection at Cantus dedicated to The Consort of Musicke, the legendary ensemble of which they, together with Emma Kirkby, have been the main musical and spiritual promoters for many years. The idea was to release on our label more than twenty extraordinary, almost mythical recordings made in the 80s and 90s, when the ensemble was probably at its highest level of quality and worldwide fame. For various reasons, these recordings did not enjoy the necessary international exposure at the time, and many of them did not even manage to be distributed effectively. We quickly agreed that it would be a wonderful idea to recover these splendid recordings and release them in deluxe digipacks with new covers, improved translations and many beautiful illustrations: thus The Consort of Musicke Heritage Collection was born, with one fundamental purpose: to pay homage to this group, founded by Anthony Rooley, which throughout its history has drastically changed the way we listen to and understand many repertoires, especially those of madrigal and Elizabethan music, among others.

Of course, I was very familiar with the repertoire cultivated by The Consort of Musicke; not only the twenty or so recordings that would make up The Consort of Musicke Heritage Collection, but also those that the ensemble had previously made for labels such as Hyperion, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi or L'Oiseau-Lyre: a fascinating journey through the irresistible repertoires of the 16th and 17th centuries in particular. It was certainly the figure of Anthony Rooley and his restless and adventurous spirit, always in search of wonderful but little known music, that inspired me most and led me to devote my career to early music. (At the time of writing, the first five titles under The Consort of Musicke Heritage Collection have been released: C 9401 Walter Porter: Madrigals and Ayres; C 9402 Cipriano de Rore: Il Quinto Libro di Madrigali; C 9403 Cor mio, deh, non languire, C 9404 Sigismondo d'India: Il Primo Libro de Madrigali and the 2 CD set C 9407/8 John Ward: Madrigals, Fantasias, Psalms & Anthems.

Our first conversations focused on the ensemble's recordings, and neither Evelyn Tubb nor Anthony Rooley mentioned the duet recordings they had made in the 1990s, of which I was completely unaware. So when they started sending me sound files of some of these recordings, taped at Forde Abbey, Dorset, UK, my surprise was enormous: I had in front of me almost half a dozen recordings whose existence I knew nothing about, and yet which contained a repertoire as unknown as it was beautiful, in performances that underlined the very personal, intimate and profound sense that they both have of the art and work of music. Two of these duo recordings have already been released by Cantus: C 9606 Musica Transalpina and C 9628 A Many Coloured Coat.

One of the duet recordings that caught my attention the most when they sent me the audio files was this one, Elegies, and the first track on it astounded me: Evelyn Tubb's heartbreaking (a capella!) voice, hauntingly beautiful, full of drama, with her characteristic colour, with her ability to convey emotion, was there, but what about the music? The audios sent by Anthony Rooley contained no credits or other information. Listening to the first few bars, I thought it was some kind of medieval lament, but of course the harmonic and melodic language quickly revealed that it had to be a contemporary composition. Interestingly, it was far from the language of early music, but shared many of its resources, with an obvious melodic richness and a text that evoked essential human emotions. These features allowed Evelyn Tubb to shine in what perhaps distinguishes her as one of the greatest singers I know, her - quite unique - gift, her ability to give the exact expression and to deliver (or rather 'say', the parlar cantando encouraged in Italy since the early 16th century) every word of the text in an ideal way within the musical discourse. I have had the good fortune to work with two other artists who, in my opinion, have a similar ability and who come from very different musical worlds: the late Argentinian folk singer Mercedes Sosa and the Brazilian Simone Bittencourt. Only they, Evelyn, Mercedes "La Negra" and Simone have been blessed with this indescribable divine gift of knowing how to "say" the songs exactly the way you expect them to be said.

But what was the first audio file that I listened to again and again that night that took me by surprise? It was the invocation that opens this CD, entitled My lute within thyself, composed by... Anthony Rooley! My first thought was that if the album opened with such a strange, so personal, so touchingly beautiful, in which Evelyn Tubb gives a veritable masterclass in how to understand a text, and in just two and a half minutes moves from the most heart-rending lament to almost whispered passages that underline the poem's most touching words with the utmost subtlety, what other wonders could the recording contain? Suffice it to say that I have the pleasure and honour of presenting one of the most special albums of my entire career. It would be impractical to enumerate all the magical moments in which Evelyn Tubb makes us savour the lyrics and the music in an almost miraculous way, matching inch for inch all the emotional and dramatic twists and turns of the pieces included here.

In their typically imaginative, unprejudiced and extremely curious style, Evelyn Tubb and Anthony Rooley propose this CD with seven laments as its central axis (the number seven, so often found in early music when speaking of grief, and which has its most famous example in Dowland's Lachrimae or Seaven Teares figured in Seaven Passionate Pavans), with small pieces arranged for lute by Anthony Rooley as preludes, the aforementioned Invocation and finally an Epilogue. This comes from Thomyris, an opera pastiche with contributions from several important Italian composers, including Agostino Steffani, who wrote the aria 'Farewell love'. Johnn Pepusch made a version of this piece for a later edition, and Anthony Rooley has rescued it here in his own arrangement for voice and lute to close a memorable album of infinite nuance. The next time I'm asked why I continue to run an early music label and release de luxe editions of little-known repertoire on Cantus, despite the fact that far fewer physical CDs are sold today than ever before, I'll say: for the pleasure of making a wonderful CD like this.

José Carlos Cabello, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, revised January 2023

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Qobuz - C 9638 Elegies: Seven Sighs or Passionate Plaints for Sorrowful Souls

Elegies: Seven Sighs or Passionate Plaints for Sorrowful Souls

  • Evelyn Tubb voice
  • Anthony Rooley lute

Additional informations

  • Total time 52:01
  • Booklet in Spanish and English with 2 articles by Anthony Rooley & José Carlos Cabello.
  • Recording Forde Abbey, Dorset (UK), 1998
  • Engineering and digital edition Chris Thorpe
  • Musical producers Anthony Rooley & Chris Thorpe
  • Series artistic producer Anthony Rooley
  • Texts supervision and translations José Carlos Cabello
  • Executive production for this edition, design and booklet coordinator José Carlos Cabello
  • CoverAnonymous, "A Noblewoman in Mourning Clothes" (ca. 1560), Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom. All rights reserved.
✋ Please adjust first the VOLUME control on the SPEAKER ⇓ before playing ▶

A. Rooley: My lute withing thyself
N. Hayme: Prelude (arr. A. Rooley)
J. W. Callcott: At thy lone tomb
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Qobuz - C 9638 Elegies: Seven Sighs or Passionate Plaints for Sorrowful Souls